§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD RHODES
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to intervene to repeat the Statement which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said I was going to make. This is a Statement which has been made by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade in another place, on export measures. The Statement is as follows—
"From to-day the Export Credits Guarantee Department's premium charges for the insurance of suppliers' credits and financial guarantees for British exports are being cut by 10 per cent. This reduction has been made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council. It will not apply to policies covering external merchanting trade in non-British goods. It is made possible by the healthy state of the Department's finances, and is expected to result in further development of the Department's business.
"I am sure that the House will welcome this improvement in the Department's facilities achieved over and above those I announced on January 27 and in the Budget Debate on April 8. The Bank Guarantees for financing exports were then extended to a wider field, both in terms of size of contract and of length of credit, and the charge for them was halved. The industries affected have welcomed these improvements as a substantial aid: and the ship-building industry in particular has benefited greatly with a large increase in orders from overseas.
"The reduction in premium charges, announced to-day, taken together with the increase in the percentage of normal cover from 85 per cent. to 90 per cent., represents a substantial reduction in E.C.G.D.'s premium charges and therefore a cheapening of its services to exports.
"We are continuing to explore further ways in which the services of the Department can be improved.
1052 "I also take this opportunity of announcing the publication of the booklet I previously promised, which has been prepared with the help of the British National Export Council and others, giving the names of 400 firms willing to assist smaller firms in export markets. This is being widely circulated through Board of Trade Regional Export officers and in other ways."
The booklet that is mentioned is Exports Assistance. It is a very interesting document detailing 400 firms giving assistance to others on the pick-a-back scheme. I think the noble Lord, Lord Byers, mentioned that in his speech during the Export Debate that we had some weeks ago.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for the Statement he has made. We are always delighted when it is possible for the Export Credits Guarantee Department, by reason of its favourable experience, to make available to industry the results of that favourable experience, and the history of the department has been a steady easing of facilities and a lowering of rates. We welcome this further contribution. I would simply ask, and I feel certain the answer will be satisfactory, for an assurance that this lowering of rates and the increase in the percentage of normal cover to 90 per cent. is being made without in any way affecting the viability of the insurance and the cover that is at any rate notionally being built up from year to year through surpluses against commitments.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I too should like to welcome this action on the part of the Government as an aid in our export drive. Could the noble Lord tell us what this means in terms of typical average premium rates? What sort of a reduction is it, and is it in any way comparable with what is now being charged by the Export-Import Bank and other institutions?
§ LORD RHODES
I cannot tell the noble Lord what the Export-Import Bank and others are charging at the moment. It is the difference between 6s. 3d. and 5s. 7d.